Monday, April 6, 2009

Cheever's Journals, the Inside Story

Here’s an interesting piece at Slate by Blake Bailey who wrote the recent John Cheever biography. Apparently, Cheever’s famous journals were (are) a disorganized mess…and he may have rewritten some of them to sound better:

“I found a passage on my laptop that I'd transcribed from the original [at Harvard University]— about Cheever's meeting with Sophia Loren in the summer of 1967—and compared it with the Brandeis version.* Sure enough, they were different! "She seems sincere, magnanimous, lucky and matter of fact," Cheever had (sloppily) typed in the original, followed by a bit of dialogue between the two. "She seems sincere, magnanimous, lucky and intelligent," reads the (immaculate) Brandeis version, and the subsequent dialogue has been deleted. Was it possible that Cheever had not only retyped but substantially rewritten many journal pages for the sake of a little academic posterity?”

I didn’t know that the published edition (edited by Robert Gottlieb and published in 1991) is only about 5 percent of what exists.

And Bailey has his own tale of woe about dealing with these tricky documents.

*31 pages that Cheever donated to the Brandeis library in the mid-1960s


DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.